Monday, January 30, 2012

Falling on Your Face, Crows, and Other Defensible Fears

"Always do what you're afraid to do."
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Whenever I get angry during yoga, I know something's up. Usually, the anger creeps up like a cat in the dark. I'll be going through a flow sequence, leaning a little deeper into a pose I'm comfortable with, feeling really calm and strong and balanced when....BAM! The teacher will teach a new pose and for some unpredictable reason, fury wells up inside of me so that I feel like I'll catch fire. It's unpredictable. It's not like that with most new poses. But with Stay back. Things are gonna' get ugly.

I've experienced the anger enough times to realize it usually means I'm resisting something and that there might be a breakthrough coming. In fact, one of the coolest things about yoga is how it seems to mirror my experiences in the "real" world. Lack of balance in Dancer Pose = Lack of balance in my work/personal life, etc. So when certain poses bring me up against walls I didn't even know were there, it becomes my responsibility to tear them down, brick by brick, until I get to the other side.

I know insight, strength, and new abilities lie just over the yogic and personal wall. However, even with the knowledge that getting to the other side will be totally worth it, I still crumple at its base and throw a tantrum like a baby because it all seems too hard.

It's also scary. Yoga introduces you to fear on such a regular basis, you might as well invite it in and make some tea. Seriously. If you think I'm joking, check out these poses.

I can't do this one yet, but I've practiced the set up. Supporting yourself on your forearms like that, with your head so close to the ground, is terrifying the first 20 times. It might be terrifying the first 50 times but I haven't done it enough to find out.

I can actually do this one. When I finally got it, the feeling was liberating. But every time I push up into a back bend, I have a hard time believing I'm really doing it. I stare down at the ground from this weird new angle and use the pose to remind myself that seemingly impossible things really are possible. But it didn't start off that way.

Which brings me to crow pose -- the current bane of my existence.

 Here's yoga rock star Kathryn Budig nailing it.

I can't do it......anymore.

If you check back to the top of this post, you may be confused because there's a picture of me doing a sorta' kinda' crow pose. I was just goofing around at the park and my friend took a picture. It was months ago, before I knew how to do "real" Crow Pose. Now that I know the "right" way, head down, booty high in the air, perched, let's say, like a scares the crap out of me. 

Last week, my teacher Shanna set us up for Crow and I could see it coming a mile away. Then, I did a seemingly inexplicable thing. I made up my mind that I couldn't do it. That's right. I Made Up My Mind and then half-assed the practice so it looked like I was trying when I really wasn't. Because I'd DECIDED not to try.

Before I started practicing yoga, I don't think I would have noticed my decision. I probably would have consciously believed I was really trying, even though I was faking it. I am constantly amazed at how much people lie to themselves about their own motivations and abilities, myself included. The only difference now is that I'm more aware of my own participation in selling myself short. But that doesn't make the experience of learning new things any less terrifying.

It does, however, make me more determined to move past the fear because I know it's a creation of my own, self-limiting mind.

What if nothing is standing in your way except you? What if that thing you think is impossible, isn't? What if you DO land on your face and get back up and try again? What if you don't?

If you don't try, you don't grow. If you don't fall, you don't get back up. It really is that simple - in yoga as in life.

So the other day, when the substitute yoga teacher set us up for Crow, I tried. For reals. And I fell. Twice.

Then you know what I did? I tried again. And every day I have committed to practicing this most terrifying pose and opening myself up to what it wants to teach  me.

Because one of these days, probably sooner than I think, I'm going to fly.

And you can too.



  1. Yes - one of these days you are definitely going to fly ;>)

  2. I like reading your posts :). Can't help but to think of our conversation about fairy tales in the Summer and your "attachment" to fear at that time... Of course it was me, who saw it and it reality may have nothing to do with you...:)